opinion The Key To Great Photography Is A Good Lens, Right? You wouldn’t be the first one to think that. Quite a few inexperienced (and sadly, experienced) photographers seem to believe this, and it’s completely false. In the grand scheme of things, the lens you’re using is one of the least important aspects of photography. After all, it’s just the piece of glass the light travels through to get to the sensor. Yes, it has to be up to a certain standard of quality, but it’s bogus to say it can make or break a photographer.
When you think about it, so much more matters. You can have the greatest piece of equipment, but if you don’t have the skill to operate it, what does it really matter? I happen to be a very inexperienced race car driver. I’ve never raced a day in my life. If you were to put me in a Formula One racer right this instant, do you think I’d get any better at racing? Not a chance. I’d be way too timid and unsure of myself to perform anywhere near the level of the athletes.
Expensive Lenses are Highly Specialized
It’s no different with lenses. There are a lot of very expensive ones out there, but you won’t know how to use them if you aren’t a well-rounded and experienced photographer. Much like a race car, they are highly specialized. Many of them only have one purpose, and if you don’t use them for that particular purpose, they really aren’t that much better than a standard lens.
Do you think the police would ever allow you to drive at race car speeds on the highway? Nope. Similarly, a nice lens won’t do much for you it you aren’t using it for the shooting situation it was designed to handle.
The real key to becoming a great photographer
As they say with music, tone is in your fingers. A camera, a lens, a flash, they’re all just the tools you use to make photography happen. Nobody would ever say an artist is great because she uses great paintbrushes and canvas. They always say she’s skilled.
A camera is like a musical instrument. You won’t get good at it unless you practice. I’ll put my money on the photographer who is out there taking dozens and dozens of pictures with a cheap point and shoot model over the one who sits at home all day surfing through Ebay looking for deals on the next lens up from the one he’s got. The more pictures you take, no matter what camera or lens you’re using to take them, the better the photographer you become.
The lens only controls the quality of the light entering the camera. How much does that matter if the picture being taken has no emotion, uninteresting composition, a lack of color, or any number of problems most amateur pictures tend to have? Photographers practice the art of photography to get better at capturing emotions, using shapes to guide the eye through the photo, and dialing in the settings to get perfect colors every time. You don’t get any of that without practice.
Don’t buy a new lens until you absolutely need it
If you do decide to buy a new lens, you need to know why you’re buying it. Are you buying it because someone told you it’s the best lens, or are you buying it because there’s a specific picture you want to take, and you need a certain feature of the lens in order to take it? Always buy for the latter reason, never the former.
Only experience will teach you which tools you truly need and which ones you don’t. You can do an awful lot with starter lenses than most camera salespeople would like you to believe. As you grow accustomed to those tools, through years of use, you’ll eventually figure out their limitations. Then, and only then, should you upgrade to a “better” lens.
In summery, you won’t become a better photographer by purchasing a new lens (although you might end up doing it anyway to justify your new purchase ;-) ). You’ll just make it easier to get certain images, just like a race car makes it easier for racers to go faster. Don’t expect the world from your lenses. Take more photos, and you will be a better photographer. I guarantee it.
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